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LI's Air Industries to keep division on LI; details acquisitions

Pete Rettaliata, chief executive of Air Industries, one

Pete Rettaliata, chief executive of Air Industries, one of Long Island's oldest aircraft-parts companies, is shown on Jan. 13, 2012. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

Air Industries Group Thursday committed to keeping one of its four divisions on Long Island for the next 10 years despite entreaties from Southern states.

The publicly traded defense contractor based in Bay Shore also revealed that it's finalizing the purchase of its third defense business in Connecticut and pursuing another that is moving from New Jersey to South Carolina.

Chief executive Peter D. Rettaliata said the local subsidiary, Welding Metallurgy Inc., will remain in Hauppauge because of tax breaks from the Suffolk County Industrial Development Agency.

A $344,000 cut in property taxes over 10 years will lower the company's rent on 81,000 square feet at 110 Plant Ave., he said.

Welding Metallurgy employs 71 people producing sheet-metal assemblies, tubes, ducts and tanks used in military aircraft. Records show the workers earn, on average, $63,176 per year.

Rettaliata said Welding Metallurgy includes the operations and staff of Woodbine Products Inc. and Decimal Industries, both local defense contractors purchased by Air Industries in recent months.

"The trend in the aerospace industry is toward consolidation," he said. "Many small companies on Long Island cannot make the cut" for orders from big companies. "They're poorly financed, they're just too small. We're buying them up and giving them the staying power to survive."

Rettaliata, who worked at Grumman Corp. for 22 years, told the IDA that he wants to keep Air Industries on the Island but must reduce costs for electricity and labor, among others. Of the company's 314 workers, 251 are local. Its sales could top $80 million this year.

Air Industries has turned down a tax-break package -- approved by the IDA in January -- that would have tied all of its divisions to Suffolk County. Rettaliata said Thursday that he prefers to seek more aid as the leases on five other buildings near their respective expirations.

"I think there is an advantage to being here," he said, referring to Long Island's aerospace manufacturing heritage. "But it's delicate."

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